by Alexandra Lichtenfeld, business mentor, Client Matters
For those of us who are not used to home-based workers, the coronavirus has added an extra symptom – many businesses are now instructing their staff to work from home.
Whether this is being overly cautious or not, the fact remains not everybody is comfortable working from home and some simply don’t know how to manage it. As a business mentor on relationship management in the workplace, I can understand how this might be difficult for some employees; some feel they need the structure and rigidity of ‘going in to the office’ to find that appropriate level of productivity; some can’t concentrate and get too easily distracted; for others it might be a process or logistical challenge, that they simply aren’t equipped to work from home.
Here are some tips for how you might cope while working from home in what appears to be isolation:
- Communication is key: In this instance utilising technology to facilitate that is going to be critical, and a good internet connection essential. It sounds obvious and most of us are connected but some are not, and businesses must be aware of this. As an employee, do not feel worried about mentioning it. Having the right tech set-up is going to make your working from home life much more successful
- Use tech to help you: We have Skype, FaceTime, Messenger and a whole raft of social mediums to keep in touch face-to-face with your colleagues, even if not in the same room. Relationships have to be maintained and feeling part of the team is important.
- Keep regularly in touch: There are no set rules for working in isolation or a virtual office, but common sense tells us to keep in touch, know what the others in your team are doing, and be very clear and concise about what you are doing so there is no overlap. It’ll make getting into the swing of remote working that much easier. The fact is this level of communication should also happen in an office environment, although sadly this is not always the case. An office WhatsApp or SLACK group with the appropriate people in the group and agreed times of the day when to communicate on that group is helpful. A pinging phone can be very annoying so setting boundaries is critical. No sending jokes or mem videos either, this is purely for a line of communication about the work you are doing.
- Morning FaceTime: If you are in a large team, a morning video conference call will set you up for the day and ensure everyone is fully briefed and completely clear on their areas of ownership. Following up the call with a brief summary setting out what you’ll be working on for the day will help create transparency across the team and ensure everyone is fully up-to-date on your workload. This will also give you your own timetable.
- Routine is good: Establishing a routine and keeping a dedicated working space are also important when working remotely in order to avoid distractions and maximise efficiency. There are time-management apps which can help you stick to your schedule and maintain your regular hours. If you are aware of colleagues who are struggling while working from home, it is important to communicate with them and have empathy for them rather than get frustrated with them as their manager or colleague.
- Keep to office hours: Do not fall into the habit of working into the evening which is in fact your time; this is something lots of remote workers have to learn the hard way in the initial period of adjustment. It is different if you’re self-employed as there are no time restrictions or schedules, just be sure then to set your own schedule so you remember to fit in the ‘me time’.
- Take regular breaks: Looking at a screen for long periods of time has been proven to be detrimental to eye-sight. Make sure you stand up, get up and away from your desk every 20 minutes, ensure you have lunch and get outside for a proportion of the day to maintain productivity. Some people will want to do the laundry or mow the lawn, but as long as you’re doing what needs to be done for the business and you are keeping on top of your workload, doing a few household tasks is fine.
Businesses up and down the country are now implementing measures to best allow their operations to continue with a remote workforce and maybe in the near future, once more businesses have seen just how productive having satellite offices can be, and employers and employees adapt to a more flexible way of working. It may even give more organisations the confidence to embrace the flexible working movement that the modern world could thrive with.